By Kath Gannaway

The Golden Arches – McDonalds – will not be the new welcome to Healesville … at least not under Planning Application 2017/93.

The application which seeks a planning permit to build a petrol station with convenience store and food premises on part of 17-25 Maroondah Highway (known as ‘the old sawmill site’), has created a social media storm, following the erection on the site last week of the formal permit application notice.

The application to Yarra Ranges Council for the $1.9M development would pave the way for a corner of the land, which has an existing permit for an extensive redevelopment of the entire site, to be sold off for a petrol station.

The sleeping community opposition to the incursion of a McDonalds-type fast food outlet in Healesville was reawakened by the perceived possibility that the ‘convenience store/food premises’ could be part of the development and has played out on facebook under the slogan of NO McDonalds/NO Inappropriate Developments in Healesville.

The pros and cons of multi-national fast food outlets on the town have been passionately debated on facebook with problems of litter, the impact on established cafes and food businesses and the visual amenity of the prime entrance to the town vs the potential benefits of youth employment and a lash-back against an ‘anti-progress’ stance.

The name of the applicant even led to speculation that it was gaming and hotel giant Zagames behind the application – an equally fanciful response according to Ed Zagami, a town planner with Planning Studio On Peel who is acting for the petrol station developer behind the application.

Mr Zagami told the Mail that neither a McDonalds-type fast food, nor a Zagames, was possible under the application.

“Our client develops petrol station so he is interested in purchasing this land from the existing owner (Joseph Alesci) who has the original permit,” Mr Zagami said.

“It is a condition (allowable) on the parent permit over all of the land. Our client wants to run the petrol station component and is not interested in all the other uses, so we sought application from council to amend the existing permit to separate this (corner) site from the total land so he could get on and build a petrol station,” he explained.

“The Council said they would prefer a separate permit, so we have applied for the same proposal, albeit the building design has been tweeked.”

Yarra Ranges Council confirmed to the Mail that a McDonalds-type fast-food outlet was not an option saying that the amended application seeks to alter the canopy and presentation of the service station on the site.

“The building size is reduced in the application, with a small height increase to a wall on the site,” said Director of Social and Economic Development, Ali Wastie, adding that the site has a current planning permit, which was approved by VCAT in 2016.

“The station on the site is proposed as a “convenience shop”, which would allow sale of pre-packaged food, drinks and other convenience goods, along with the potential for hiring convenience goods,” Ms Wastie explained.

“It is not proposed that the site will be used as a “convenience restaurant”, which allows for preparation and sale of food and drink for immediate consumption both in and away from the premises.”

The site was subdivided into two lots following the 2016 VCAT approval to separate the service station from the rest of the site.

“The service station application is new, but the proposal is very similar to the previously-approved development for the site and does not change the definition of the site for its use as a convenience shop,” Ms Wastie said.

Submissions on the development can be made until the application is heard by Council. To read more, and to make a submission, visit https://eplanning.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Pages/XC.Track/SearchApplication.aspx?id=724823

So … no Maccas for Healesville … yet!

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